Tag Archives: hills

A week mainly in Spain

Was in Portugal and Spain last week for a ‘wee'(?) cycle tour with a pal, Eric.Spain with Eric 2018

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My old bike packed and ready to go

We travelled lightly to Faro, sharing rooms en route. The weather was considerably warmer than Scotland when we landed and cycled over to the ferry to cross into Spain. En route we managed to detour into some majorly rough country roads, with 2 portuguese punctures and bumpy roads. Changing countries by ferry always seems romantic to  me, especially as continental Europe generally has no barriers between countries. This day was no exception.

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Waiting for the ferry

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Crossing the Border

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Eric surveys the Spanish landing

 After landing in Ayamonte it was a steep ascent up into the town, then a quick descent to pick up our road out. The Spanish roads were so much better, with an introduction to the courteous and considerate Spanish drivers, especially those driving lorries – great all the way through the trip. The smells & views of the vegetation were varied and great. Eventually, after just over 66 miles we arrived at our first destination Punta Umbría, where we met up with our other pals who were based there for a week. Once there we wolfed into a huge meal, showered and enjoyed, after a fashion, a hilarious Spanish karaoke.

Next morning we piled into breakfast, fueling up well for the miles ahead. Then farewells to all and off to the local bike shop for a couple of tubes, finally pointing our wheels northwards. Every so often we stopped for a coffee, lunch or just to explore a town, gradually heading onwards and upwards into the hills.

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Lunch at Beas

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Art Nouveau detail

Some of the architecture was gorgeous with art nouveaux details and buildings and other older Spanish cultures evident.

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Jabugo and its pigs

In another smallish town, Jabugo, the street was full of pork butchers, seemingly every second shop (not to good for a non meat eater) as it was a specialism of the district. As the day went on the temperature rose up to 29ºC, a foretaste of what was to come. I’m not too good at these temperatures and Eric steamed up the hills ahead of me. Luckily I’m OK descending so it we played cat & mouse most of the day. Eventually after 85 miles we arrived at Galaroza, a delightful town with steep cobbled street, fountains and churches.

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First Spanish Hostal at Galaroza

We had located a Hostal, and booked ourselves in for a meal. After freshening up we had a dusk saunter round the place, returning for a delightful meal, with refreshing cervezza (beer).

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Just up from the Hostal

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A famous fountain with 10 taps

Next morning a reasonably early start, we filled our water bottles from the fountain and set off with the temperature a chilly seeming 12ºC. Still heading north it was a series of climbs and exhilarating descents, with the usual stops along the way.

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Fregnal de la Sierra, a cooling trough

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lunch at the centre

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Looking back

This time the heat went up to 38ºC, so plenty of extra water, fresh orange & coffee stops along the way.

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Jerez de Los Caballeros

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Making pals?

After 89 miles we arrived at Badajoz, found ourselves a hostal for the night and after the usual shower and washing cycling gear, roamed out in search of dinner. I found out one thing with today’s temperatures. I had to  fit a screw together bottom bracket as Specialised would not dell me the original cups used for the bearings. A friend had skimmed it a bit to fit. In Scotland it worked fine, and in the mornings in Spain it was also good, but come midday it had been creaking and groaning. I also realised that with the heat it was expanding and not quite as tight a fit as it needed to be. Unfortunately we weren’t near any bike shops at a convenient time, so I learned to just live with the post lunch complaining. Back again and it’s fine again.

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Badajoz

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Outside the music school

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Confirmation Day?

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A mathematician’s dream building

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On the way out

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Looking back

Next morning was a reasonable 14ºC, though it gradually climbed up to 35º. This time we crossed the Spanish plains, into a strong headwind. It was quite morale sapping, similar vistas for miles and often head down to maintain progress. We stopped for quite a while in Mérida, a bonny city with loads of old or unusual buildings and Roman ruins (felt a bit like one myself!)

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The Roman aqueduct at Merida

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Diana’s Temple

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The Chinese Palace

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A Roman arch

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Basilica a Santa Eulalia

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City Walls

I just wished it had been a bit cooler, but counted myself lucky to be able to see such sights and sites. After an 86 mile day we reached Zafra. I went in to the hotel and asked for the toilet. Unfortunately it was down a dark passage, I still had my shades on and blundered into a heavy glass table with metal edges. So with me blooded and bruised we checked in. We settled in for the night after a wander round the town and a meal.

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After dinner in Zafra

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And another trough

So our 5th day dawned and this time a welcome 11ºC start. After noon up it went again to 33º, a bit wearing.

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Medina de Las Torres

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Beside the motorway . . .

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. . . which takes a short cut

IMG_6432After the usual visits & stops we completed 97 miles, with me a bit frazzled, but still basically OK. We had to ring to get someone to open up the hotel at Pilas, but as usual wheeled the bikes in and settled down to our usual washing cycle gear to get rid of the salt & sweat.

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A pleasant hotel room for the bikes

Then round the town, settle for dinner & sleep. They usually start dinner about 9 pm, so we were seldom settled till late on.

Once again an earlyish start, 11º and a meandering course towards Ayamonte. But . . . . it was cooler – strange as we were right down in the south, with North Africa not too far to the south.

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Horse sculptures on the roundabouts and real horses in the town – Almonte

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Busy streets?

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Crossing the Rio Odiel

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An industrial past remembered?

Once at Ayamonte we had ice creams.

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Ayamonte

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Gutting fish

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My poor creaky bike, but a lovely bench

Then caught the ferry across to Portugal and Vila Real de San Antonio and found a tiny room to squeeze into for the night with amazing bedspreads.

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A ‘different’ translation

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Back to Portugal

The place was really quirky but interesting. So, our last wander round the town, somehow different from the Spanish ones, a gorgeous meal in a pleasant restaurant and back for a night’s kip.

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Room with a view

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Decorated benches

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The bedspread

Next day was a leisurely ride back to Faro as it wasn’t too far at just over 40 miles. We stopped at a lovely town, Tavira, en route. There was a craft type market, a walking event to encourage folk to do some exercise and an excellent local band playing.

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Tavira

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The champion arrives?

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Posing

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Fabby Band

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Faro harbour

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Faro old town

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Turtles in the pool and strange statues

IMG_6510I had another Portuguese puncture though it was soon mended. But eventually  we had to leave for the airport, pack our bikes and catch the flight home.

Despite the afternoon temperatures it was a good trip, with lots of interesting towns and sights and the joy of such excellent driving around us. We had averaged over 80 miles a day till the last day, which was way beyond what I had expected. We’d had some interesting and challenging roads and some lovely landscapes. I can see why Eric likes cycling in mainland Spain so much and will probably be back to try another area.

 

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Septuagerianism & The Beast from the East

But I’ll start with the beast as it arrived first. It was forecast for snow and boy, the forecast didn’t lie. Usually by March in Central Scotland it is rare to have any snow at all, but this time it piled in, driven by big winds, so we stayed put for a couple of days till it blew out.

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The front door

Then it was digging out The Square with our friends & neighbours and getting out the skies again. A couple of lovely wee tours on the boards.

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Out on the boards, heading for the hills

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Just a wee bit o’ snaw!

Then the temperature went up a bit and the roads cleared enough to be out on the bike again. So away off, so happy, despite the gunge, snow melt, gravel, potholes, cough etc.

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The long road up Redstone Rigg with John & Mike ahead.

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Redstone Rigg summit with Mike, I’ve not put on weight – gloves and hat tucked in!

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A rapid down in the Lammermuirs

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Getting the miles in, nearly home

Then my 70th loomed. We booked an away trip to Peebles, in the Scottish Borders.

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On the way down to Peebles

I took my mountain bike too, as there is a renowned trail centre there at Glentress. As my 69th year departed I took the bike out, full of ambition and headed out and up the hill behind the hotel. A few miles in and a few hundred feet up, there came the snow banks. Unfortunately it was fairly soft so I eventually gave up & slid/ cycled back down. Only just over 5 miles in just under the hour, but still fun.

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Got a half a mile further

Then off to the swim, steam room & sauna and a well earned meal.

Next day dawned with me entering a new decade, funny how many cycling bits I got as presents?

So after breakfast off on the bike to Glentress to try my luck. My old steed was misbehaving so in to the bike shop at the foot of the trails to have it sorted. The front derailleur wasn’t selecting bottom gear – absolutely essential for the day’s outing. The managed to bodge it as a normal adjustment wasn’t working, so off I went.

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Glentress trails

On up the forestry roads, once again the drifts of soft snow impeded progress, so it was ride, slither, get off, push and repeat, and repeat . . . . . .

At one point a huge logging lorry came up behind. I stopped, got off and stepped to the side. Unfortunately the snow was softer and deeper than I thought so I went down on to my back, landed upside down with my feet and hands waving in the air, like tumbled over beetle, and my bike splayed out beside me. The driver stopped to ask if I was OK, but I was just lying there laughing at the situation – so I waved him on. I eventually untangled myself, decided enough was enough as the drifts were getting deeper & set off to find a blue trail back.

With some sort of dignity restored I found the trail and set off – guess what more ride, slither, get off, push and repeat, and repeat . . . . . .

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Selfie timelapse, phone resting on gloves

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Still smiling (or is it grimacing?)

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About to head off again

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Eventually I got to The Buzzard’s Nest, no chance of trying out the fun park today. A quick chat with some sensible fat bikers the off down. It was a brilliant descent swooping along, dodging the snow banks on the berms and over the wooden humpback bridge. Suddenly I thought, this seems another level up from the blue I’d been following. I had strayed onto the red/ black run. Ah well, just have to concentrate a bit harder and take care till the bottom.

Then it was back along the cycle path.

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Castle & brooding skies on the way back

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That castle again

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Subterranean cycling

This was followed by a repeat of swim, steam room & sauna. Altogether a slightly adventurous way of spending a birthday.

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And . . . . relax!!

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Peebles museum – hydro therapy as it used to be!

Next day back home and out on the road bike again. No snow on the roads, no falling over but not as much giggling and guffawing!!

Infamy, Infamy, the Deer have Got it InForMe!! 🦌🦌🦌

For those not accustomed to British Humour, this is a misuse of a quote from the Carry On film ‘Carry on Cleo’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvs4bOMv5Xw.

It’s felt a bit like this locally. First the ice and snow, then the deer started leaping out in front of me.

I’ve started recording my rides with my sports cam and there’s been some interesting footage. It has also reminded me (as if I needed it?) how beautiful and exciting our wee part of the world is. On the downside it has also shown how inconsiderate some motorists can be. First the beauty bit: Ride6Jan 18-00003Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 19.50.56Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 19.53.03Ride19Jan 18-00001Ride19Jan 18-00002Didn’t go this way that day!!

Ride20Jan 18-00003Ride20Jan 18-00004Ride21Jan 18-00005Blizzard, worse than it looks here

Ride1Feb 18-00001A friendly smile

Ride2Jan 18-00004Ride05Feb 18-00002Ride05Feb 18-00004Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 16.00.30Now for a couple of exciting bits

Deer3 weeUp in the hills, 2 deer (looks better in a new window)Ride13Jan 18-00005

Deer2 weeJust out of the village 3 deer, just one crossing (looks better in a new window)Ride1Feb 18-00009

And some of the nasties

Ride13Jan 18-00003Not as bad as it looks

Ride18Jan 18-00002Why wait for oncoming cars – close too!

Ride18Jan 18-00003Yup, save a few seconds

Ride18Jan 18-00004Close again

Ride18Jan 18-00005Another can’t wait!!

A Wee Ride with the Occasional Hill?

It was the club’s Sunday ride, up to the Humbie Hub, a delightful local cafe, post office, general store etc. I think 25 of us assembled beside the fountain with Samson, of biblical fame, on top. I had the day free of obligations so was determined to venture a bit further.

After stoking up on an egg roll, scone with jam and coffee, I set off with 3 companions with a vague route in mind, depending on how I felt. It was chilly (average 5°C), but I had just enough on to keep the chill away.

The colours were beautiful, a superb, sunny autumn day with the trees changing to brown and the odd carpet of leaves 🍁 🍁 🍁 to woosh through and scatter.

A few miles in, we went down to 3 of us and the first serious hill loomed into view – The Rigg. Luckily it was a northerly wind so we were ably assisted by the weather up to the moors!

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Up on the moors, East Lothian spread out below

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Terry arrives

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John makes it up

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The way forward, love the wee walker at the bottom of the signpost

At the top the others departed for a shorter route, I was feeling good and went onwards over the switchback hills bathed in sunshine and shadows into the Scottish Borders. I was warmed up on the ascents and then chilled on the speedy downhills, but still felt good. I reached the turning after 8 miles so onto a wee road across, a meeting with a couple of glorious brilliant looking peacocks and then some more steep ascents and descents. A quick dodge down the main road and then guess what?

Yes, more climbing and hurtling down with the pull of gravity, seems this was today’s theme. It was now into the wind as well, just to add to the determination.

This time nearing a summit I realised I had that empty feeling, I think this was about 40 miles in. So a stop, an Aldi paleo bar later and some slurps of water too, I was refreshed. I don’t feel the need to drink much water on rides, especially when it’s cold and I had drunk a large coffee at the Hub, so felt fine.

Another 20 miles on after bumpy back roads and many more ups & downs I was beginning to feel it a bit, but the sight of the sea and the feeling of getting near home territory, plus another slurp or two of water revived me for a good finish.

The North Sea

Looking down to the sea, Torness Nuclear Power Station mars the view

All in all, a glorious day’s cycling, grabbed from near the end of the October days.

Today was cold again, but a bracing walk in Dunbar cleared away the cobwebs.

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An art installation at Dunbar Battery

Quiet and Tears

Been involved in a lot locally recently.

We’ve had an exhibition of a local artist’s work Robert Noble, who died 100 years ago and is buried in the church yard. He deserves to be much better known. I’ve been helping in compiling slide shows and creating a large introduction board for the show and exhibition. The exhibition seems to be popular, and in the process there have been many paintings that have been discovered. I’ve managed to get to the exhibition a couple of times and it is lovely. Hopefully I’ll get back again before it ends.

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Robert Noble Exhibition – information

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Robert Noble Exhibition

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Another more serious event was our Drama Group’s moving production of “The Women of Lockerbie” by an American playwright Deborah Breevort. It tells the story seven years after the terrorist bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. The women of the village tried to stop the clothes and artefacts of the victims from being destroyed so they could wash and return them to the families. They had been kept for that long as forensic evidence. The play is unusual as it is done like a Greek tragedy, with a chorus of women. I was in charge of the lighting for the show and on the last night we had a standing ovation, with many of the audience visibly moved to tears. It was a privilege to be part of it all.

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Women of Lockerbie – set

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Women of Lockerbie – the chorus

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Women of Lockerbie – confrontation

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Women of Lockerbie – the release

The cycling recently has been wonderful, though I find myself full of tears for a different reason. I need to wear specs so cannot wear sports glasses, so I find that at speed my eyes water a great deal. When I get back my eyes are slightly crusted with salt, which isn’t too good. I’ve thought about various solutions – fur fabric round the sides & tops of my specs (may look slightly weird or Groucho Marx like), a visor, safety over specs etc. but haven’t come to any conclusion yet. But I am glad my tear ducts still work well. I’ve been racking up the miles and height this year and enjoying climbing the hills on the bike locally so much. One of the recent highlights was a 52 mile ride with over 6,000 feet of climbing after which I still felt great. I’m gearing up nicely for a much longer overnighter in just over a month’s time.

But there have been other moments too. The other week I had a time when I was going quickly with the wind behind. I reached that magic moment when, for just a wee while, I was going the same speed as the wind. Sitting in this bubble of air everything went quiet. No wind noise, no traffic noise, the hum of the pedals almost muted and smooth tarmac with the tyres smoothly rolling along. To me, on the rare occasions when all this comes together, it just seems a form of Nirvana – the soul seems at rest. As usual, a brief moment and then it’s away. Ah well, here’s to the next time.

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A steep one up ahead

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One of the many hills and a hairpin

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Sheep lie in the road up ahead

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Bog cotton on the tops

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A rare greyish day

Looks like our good weather is going to continue for a while yet, off and on, so it seems the legs will continue getting an airing.

Paparazzi

Just a few weeks back I was out on the Haddington Cycle Club ride. One of the magazines, Cycling Weekly, came out to join us, to do an article on the club. We gathered in the square, next to the fountain with the statue of Samson on a pillar. I had to borrow a club vest as I didn’t have any club kit. We had all been asked to put on a show & turn up. Over 30 of us gathered.

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The Gathering – Haddington

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Andy gets his first shots

Powerbar, who sponsor the shoot, had a lass handing out bars and gels. I took the former, but passed on the second. We were given instructions, such as “ignore the camera for a ‘realistic’ shot” etc. and split into two groups.

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Leaving Haddington

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Passing Berwick Law

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Trevor joins the gang

It was a bit chilly and cloudy at the start but gradually improved through the day. I took my camera with me and at one point pushed ahead a little to take a shot of the gang approaching. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen the cameraman, Andy, up ahead and was ushered back into the fold for a photo up.

As we headed up the coast towards the hills the sun made an appearance. Trevor, the journalist, rode with each of us gathering info for the article. He was impressed by the route and the countryside and said he’d be back in East Lothian some time to ride for himself.

We reached the cafe up in the hills, the Lanterne Rouge, resplendent in its Bianchi blue. The staff were brilliant managing to serve us all reasonably promptly, despite the numbers. As expected, there was loads of chat and Andy was busy circling round, camera at the ready. We all had to pose for a mug shot, complete with our names on paper napkins for later identification.IMG_4083IMG_4084IMG_4085

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Andy at work in ‘The Lanterne Rouge’

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Leaving ‘The Lanterne Rouge’ and Gifford

Finally we left the cafe and sauntered, sort of, back to Haddington for a farewell to the team of two. We now await the publication, which is due in early June.

I then rode on to enjoy a ride of 70+ miles in all, great fun! When the article was published, there I was – a white bearded fossil talking about his plans for a world record attempt, when (and if) he reaches his centenary – time will tell!!

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Near the end of the ride, rough-roading it

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Ducks in Tyne Bay, sifting mud

This was going to be it, but I never got round to publishing. Then a couple of weeks later – out went the call again.

This time Scottish cycling wanted some publicity shots for the Tour of Britain, coming through Haddington then up to a King of the Mountain climb nearby at Redstone Rigg. This time it was more static, with us posing & riding around by the river. Quite a giggle, but when the photos came out I was nicely hidden behind everyone! So much for my 15 minutes of fame!

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Posing for club photo

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The race is on

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Swollen head?

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Official Scottish Cycling car

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Official Tour of Britain car

I’ve signed up to be a marshal for the Redstone Rigg section of the Tour of Britain this year. Up there on Sunday. Team Skye caught me in a shot there last time so maybe we’ll have to fight the photographers off this year, who knows?

Another Month Gone By

What an amazing year so far, not even the end of March and I’m almost up to 2,000 miles of mainly joyous cycling, plus a new bike to play with.

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Showing off again? Fat & mountain bike together.

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Above the estuary

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He’s behind you, somewhere

The last few days have been splendid, with that evil wind finally decreasing and the sun coming out to play more. I’ve even been cycling in shorts again, lounging in the outside chairs at the cafe stop and overheating some of the time!

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Cafe stops & bare legs in March!

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Mainly blue skies and sunshine as well

As usual, shortly after my birthday I cycled my birthday miles – 69. It was wild and windy, but I managed to find some shelter in the bunch for part of the time on the upwind section. Back down out of the hills and along the coast we flew and quite near home I had averaged 16.5 mph, but was still 10 miles short. So on down to Dunbar and then a wrong decision, back home via the hills and into the wind again solo, oh how the average plummeted! Ah well!

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Into my 70th year on earth

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Some of the gang

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The new machine

There’s been some great rides too, both solo and with companions.

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Climbing one of the steep ones

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The hill fort caption board (see photo above for a view from above)

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Over the tops

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The road is there somewhere

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An adder escaping into the heather

I bought a new bike for my birthday, as my other one was wearing out after much use & abuse over the last 9 years. I went over to Fife to collect it, planning to cycle home via the Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh. The ride up to the bridge was pretty desperate, with wild, wild winds and gusts. When I got to the bridge it was closed to lorries, pedestrians and cyclists, so back into Inverkeithing, onto the train station and as I wheeled the bike onto the platform the train was pulling in, yippee. I secured my less new looking bike & settled down for a short journey over the Forth rail bridge to Dalmeny on the other side. Whilst purchasing a ticket I was told that the train didn’t stop there, so my cycle journey was shortened by getting off at the outskirts of Edinburgh.

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The new road bridge over the Forth, from the train, on the way out

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Forth Road Bridge closed because of the gale

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An unexpected train journey for the new bike

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Looking out to the Forth Estuary

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Whoops – discovered this fault when I got home, no wonder the front gear change was clunky!!

I went right through the centre of the city, dodging cars, buses, taxis and trams etc. Once back into East Lothian I flew along in a little calm bubble as I was going the same speed as the wind.

And how has the bike been? Magicke. It has front suspension, which is great on our dodgy roads, the handling is superb, the disc brakes brilliant and all the hidden cables etc. make it a joy to keep clean. I’ve had it now for over 300 miles and the only change was putting on my old Brookes saddle, I just didn’t get on with the Specialized one, despite tinkering with the adjustment. The suspension is sometimes a bit clunky at times but works well and makes a difference to my tender ageing parts.

On foot, there have been some gorgeous days walking as well, though we missed seeing a kingfisher by a minute or so the other day. Plenty of other flora and fauna to entertain though.

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Seen on our walks . . . .

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Another recent highlight was going to a talk by Grame Obree, former hour world champion amongst many other achievements. He was ‘pure brilliant’, outlining his background, successes, downsides and personal philosophy with humour and truthfulness. It was a very enlightening evening, enjoyed by everyone I spoke to.

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Examining “The Beastie” at Graeme Obree’s talk

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At Graeme Obree’s talk ‘The Beastie’, how he fits in I’ve little idea

So, now Spring is rize, hopefully fewer layers and some good longish rides await.

Since I wrote this (tempting fate?) I’ve been off the bike for a week, but the cough, stiffness and aches are diminishing so should be out soon.